In a churchyard overlooking Lake Ontario, local laymen served barbecued steak to hungry delegates to the biennial national convention of Canada’s largest Protestant denomination. It was about the only time during the twenty-third General Council of the United Church of Canada that anyone bit into tough fare. Back on the convention floor, there were plenty of meaty issues, but the delegates—half clergy, half lay—passed most of them on to the professionals at United Church headquarters in Toronto.
Included in the 408-page agenda for the nine-day meeting was consideration of a new creed and of whether to appoint “bishops.” What bugged delegates the most, however, was a problem the United Church shares with a number of North American denominations, which have not yet faced up to it. It is diplomatically described as “the crisis in the ministry,” and it ranges in severity from the indignation felt by a rural pastor who must crank the mimeo and mow the lawn to the loneliness and frustration of suburban ministers unable to cope with the deep-seated problems of affluent parishioners. Alarms have been sounded over the number of men leaving the ministry for such reasons.
“The crisis of the Church today is the crisis of the ministry,” said the Rev. A. L. Griffith of Toronto in a floor debate.
A wide range of therapy has been suggested. Manitoba churchmen petitioned “that the current Manse Furnishing Policy be changed so that the minister shall provide all of the Living Room Furniture and all of the Bedroom Furniture,” and “that the Pastoral Charge provide a TV antenna for the manse if one is needed for that particular area.” At a deeper level, a Commission of the Church’s Ministry in the Twentieth Century, formed four years ago to study ...1
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